Monday July 18, 2011

BENNINGTON -- Bennington’s Board of Civil Authority voted Monday in favor of keeping the town’s legislative districts exactly the same, rejecting a suggested plan by the state’s Apportionment Board.

The Board of Civil Authority’s recommendation would keep in place the two existing two-member House districts. That plan was recommended to the local board by Bennington Town Clerk Timothy Corcoran and Assistant Town Clerk Cassandra Barbeau.

The Vermont Constitution calls for the periodic reapportionment of legislative districts using updated census numbers. The Apportionment Board makes suggested changes that are reviewed by local boards of civil authority, which in turn make comments to the Legislature. The Legislature ultimately decides how the legislative districts will be formed.

Barbeau said at Monday’s board of civil authority meeting that the existing districts are close in population and meet the requirements of the state Apportionment Board.

Corcoran said few towns or legislative districts in the state have been able to remain the same, like Bennington, for the past 20 years. "There’s not many towns that stay exactly as they are, with people knowing where to vote," he said.

The board voted unanimously against the Apportionment Board’s suggested districts. That plan would split Bennington into four separate single-member House districts and shift other nearby towns to new districts.

The Apportionment Board’s plan would also split the village of North Bennington apart to help fill out two of the four Bennington districts. The Apportionment Board’s plan would have 150 House members across the state in new, redrawn, single-member districts.

The Bennington districts, as suggested by the Apportionment Board, would mean that at least two current House members from Bennington would lose their seats.

Bennington Reps. Mary Morrissey, a Republican, and Anne Mook, a Democrat, would be in the same district under the board’s plan. Similarly, Democratic Reps. Proposed redistricting would chop up local districts Timothy Corcoran II and Brian Campion of the current Bennington 2-1 District, would be in the same district under the suggested plan.

Mook and Morrissey both sit on the Bennington Board of Civil Authority and voted Monday to recommend the districts do not change.

Corcoran derided the Apportionment Board’s plan because it would place parts of North Bennington in two districts, meaning residents in the small village would have different representatives and different polling locations.

It would also mean Bennington could have up to four polling locations and could require more poll workers to help run elections. The existing districts use two polling locations.